Wednesday, December 9, 2009


While the icy tentacles of winter were spreading over Central Texas last week, I was on a ship in the Sargasso Sea. Almost home after a Transatlantic cruise. I happened to catch the news on TV and it was all about the cold blast of Arctic air that had dipped down as far as Houston. I could only imagine what the temperatures were like in Austin and particularly in my garden, which seems to be the coldest spot in Austin. Arriving home on Monday evening it was too late to see anything out in the garden. This is the kind of scene that greeted me the next morning. All my A. desmettiana, in the ground and in pots, were hanging limply in the morning light.

Even those in the Spanish Oak garden, where high walls offer good protection, had succumbed to the same fate.

Just the week before, my neighbor had picked zucchini from this plant. Beans, peppers and tomatoes had met a similar fate.

The Mexican lime tree was not safely tucked away in the greenhouse as in previous years. Will it ever bear again I wonder?

Surely I could find something to cheer me up among all the destruction. This tiny native cosmos, just a couple of inches above the gravel, survived because it was so tiny. Just like alpine flowers.

The leaves of the heartleaf skullcap had no problem with shaking off the cold. They will surely give a great display in the spring.

The alyssum is not about to wait for spring. What a tough little trooper.
Among all the frozen wilted plants there are signs of the year to come. Bluebonnets, poppies, coreopsis, nigella have germinated in the fall rains.

But winter is all about berries and we certainly have plenty of those.


  1. UGH, Jenny, how awful. I thought agaves could weather cold temps. My condolences.

  2. I am in the Austin area as well (hill country). I have a few baby agaves in my yard in pots, they look okay, we will see after tonights proposed freeze. I did however have some bad expereinces with my banana and canna plants. Today I cut them back and put them in my garage, hopefully they will spring back when the weather gets better. I totally forgot to bring the plants in when there was word of a freeze.

    I am going to have to find those native cosmos and aslyssum plants, those are beautiful and will look real nice in my yard. Good luck tonight.

    I also lost the last of my jalepeno peppers and bell peppers. At least I got to enjoy them to this point.

  3. Oh how sad. I have the same kind of agave and it sure is tender. The last couple of years I kept it in an unheated greenhouse and it always got nipped. This year it's in my unheated storeroom under lights where the temps are more moderate. You must have felt totally helpless not being able to do anything about your plants. But at least the good old tough ones survive.

  4. Yes, it was hard to see what that freeze did to so many of the plants. Guess we are just spoiled by our normally warm weather, we tend to forget that it is December. I hope your Lime tree makes it.

  5. Those poor A. desmettianas! Are they completely done for, I wonder, or would they struggle along, though wounded? I'm loving those berries though--great color.

  6. I forgot to add that my two desmettianas survived last week's freeze under tubs and pots. I hope they can get through the winter that way. This year may be a tough test.

  7. Jenny, how sad about your desmettianas and lime tree. And what a shame you didn't have an opportunity to harvest your veg before the freeze. It seems Mother Nature wants to give us a taste of real winter this year.

  8. It got down to 17 degrees here. Even with the vegi's covered they still died in that low of temps. The smell of dead plants just hung in the air. The first hard freeze is always my saddest gardening day.

  9. Thanks for all your commiserations. The good news is I pulled out one agave yesterday and there were 4 babies underneath, which I have potted up and are now safely inside. I couldn't believe the weight of the agave. It was a sodden mass of water. I think the rain we had in the fall was detrimental to the agaves.

  10. Welcome home, Jenny.
    Sorry that so many plants suffered at your place. Hope the lime tree bounces back.
    It was a cold night. We were 19 degrees here, by the time I got out to scrape frost off the thermometer. Not sure if it had been lower, down here in our valley.
    Glad you had 'babies' to tuck safely away.

  11. That loss, these pieces were lovely ...
    For my garden select plants resistant but two years ago, I remember a black frost in my garden and were terrible. The plants had the same look.

  12. Oh, those agaves were beautiful and it is tough to lose them suddenly like that. It must have been difficult to know that you were far away and couldn't do anything about what was happening in your garden. Of course, I am looking out my window at trees and shrubs still half bent and buried by snow and that all happened while i was indoors looking out. Sometimes you can't save a plant even when you are right on the spot!

  13. Glad you got some pups! The agaves don't look to horrible, though. Let us know if the lime rallies; this year will provide good information about how cold these plants can take things. And so glad you're back, but glad you got to go!